‘Missing’ Israeli soldier in Gaza declared dead

Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, had denied holding Lieutenant Hadar Goldin

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An Israeli soldier who went missing in action during fighting in the Gaza Strip two days ago has been announced dead by the Israeli army, Agence-France Presse reported Sunday.

A special committee led by the Israeli army’s chief rabbi announced Lieutenant Hadar Goldin’s death during a battle in Gaza, according to an army statement.

An army spokesperson refused to confirm or deny reports that the soldier’s remains had been found.

The soldier's family has been notified and will receive support, the statement added.

The Israeli side had previously suggested that 23-year-old Goldin had been captured by Hamas fighters in Gaza.

Hamas' armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, had acknowledged its fighters staged an ambush early Friday in which soldiers were killed, but denied holding Goldin.

"We have lost contact with the mujahedeen unit that was in that ambush, and we think that all the fighters in this unit were killed by Zionist shelling along with the soldier, who the enemy says is missing," it said on Saturday.

Israel considers the capture of its soldiers a casus belli, an act that justifies the declaration of war. It launched a 34-day war on Lebanon's Hezbollah in 2006 after the group seized two soldiers.

Late Saturday, Israeli media had watched as Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and the army Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz visited the home of Goldin's parents.

Hundreds of people, including the parents of three young Israelis kidnapped and killed in the Palestinian West Bank in June, also assembled at the Goldin family home in central Kfar Saba.

Goldin's mother on Saturday urged Israel army not to pull its troops out of the Gaza Strip, where the conflict has raged for almost four weeks, until her son was brought back.

Goldin’s death brings the Israeli army death toll to 64 since the start of hostilities on July 8, the heaviest since the 2006 war against the Lebanese Hezbollah.

More than 1,700 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed.

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